Another Good riddance in the ranks of African Leadership; Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Resigns.
As more misplaced, misassigned, and morally bankrupt African leaders are systemically forced out of office, the continent may in fact have a brighter future. The recent departures of South Africa’s Zuma, Zimbabwe’s Mugabe, and Mr. Desalegn of Ethiopia are not coincidences; they are harbingers of things to come as Africans find and embrace free speech, and democratic principles. Said differently, Africans are now saying to their leaders “Get your priorities right or ship out.” Real change is afoot, and we are anxious to see the fruit it bears. Jim Moore of New York Times explains what led to the forced exit of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister.
The prime minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn, resigned on Thursday, state media reported, after deadly unrest pushed the government to release several high-profile political prisoners. The announcement followed the release this week of Eskinder Nega and Woubshet Taye, two prominent journalists who spent seven years in prison, and of Bekele Gerba, one of the country’s most important opposition figures, who was jailed in 2015. The state broadcaster reported that Mr. Hailemariam submitted his resignation to Parliament on Thursday, and that he expected it to be accepted. An interim leader is likely to be appointed until the ruling coalition names a new leader.
Hallelujah Lulie, a political analyst in Addis Ababa, the capital, said Mr. Hailemariam’s resignation “was just a matter of time.”“Things were deteriorating,” he said, adding that many had expected a new prime minister to be named at the next congress of the ruling coalition, scheduled for this summer.
Africa’s second-most populous country and an important United States ally in the fight against terrorism, Ethiopia is a regional powerhouse with grand economic plans. But it has experienced violent clashes for more than two years, with protesters calling for economic and political reform. Implementation of the government’s agenda has been slow, and tensions have escalated as the public’s patience has waned.
In a move many believed was designed to release some of that tension, Mr. Hailemariam announced in January that the country would free some prisoners, including opposition politicians. Several hundred were freed, but the government continued to hold some of the most high-profile prisoners, including the journalists and Mr. Bekele.
Observers have said that the government’s reluctance to free prominent prisoners illustrated divisions within the ruling party over the release program specifically and of the march toward reform generally. “There are elements within the ruling party who don’t want to do that, who want to resist it at every turn,” said Hassan Hussein, an Ethiopian analyst and professor at St. Mary’s University in Minneapolis. He said the government and members of the opposition, especially the political party of the Oromia people, had disagreed about the conditions for releasing prisoners.
To accelerate the process, Oromia opposition members inside and outside Ethiopia called for a boycott on Monday. Shops and banks in the province of Oromia were closed, and those who did not join the street protests largely stayed home, residents said. Activists said as many as 20 people were killed. The boycott was officially canceled after Mr. Bekele was released on Tuesday, but Mr. Hallelujah said the protests had continued in many places. “It’s easy to call a protest, but it’s very difficult to call it off,” he said. “It takes its own life and its own course.”
That is precisely what appears to have spooked the most powerful member of the four-party coalition, which has been facing down more than two years of demonstrations in the country’s most sensitive regions. The government cracked down against the protesters, and at least 669 people have been killed, according to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission.
The ruling coalition, which has run the country since 1991 and controls every seat in Parliament, is also fracturing from within. Two of its marginalized members, representing the regions where the protests began, joined forces to contest the power of the coalition’s dominant member — an unexpected alliance of former enemies that, observers say, appears to be succeeding in challenging power.
Mr. Hailemariam’s resignation appears to be the latest chapter in that political saga. “I think his resignation probably is because of those differences among the coalition groups,” said Girma Seifu, an opposition politician who was once the only lawmaker who was not a member of the ruling coalition.
Mr. Hailemariam came into office in 2012, after the death of Meles Zenawi, whom Mr. Hallelujah described as a “bigger than life figure.” Mr. Meles had ruled with a heavy hand — and, some say, a micromanager’s scrutiny — since 1995. But Mr. Hailemariam gave little indication that he had either the wide-angle vision or the close-up attention of his predecessor.